Tuesday, 2 September 2014

When the teacher gets inspired by a student

In this post I would like to give the stand to my 16-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who inspired me with a big list of project ideas. What a kick off to starting the new school year! You may have heard of or even run some of them, some may not appeal to you or you may think that they are difficult to do. But the main idea is that educators should seek new ideas, be open-minded and listen to their students. You never know what invaluable treasure they hide in their minds. The only thing they need is to be heard.
So, take a pick and I look forward to your feedback, comments and improvements. Alexandra would love that, too!
Finally, I would like to thank GeorgeRaptopoulos for editing and proofreading!
Here we go…

1 Personal  mail box.

You make a box and decorate it the way you like. In there you put letters you write to yourself and read them out at the start of the new year. In the first letter you write to yourself what you dislike about you and you must be polite while you do that (remember you will read that to others and you mustn’t be harsh or rude to anyone, even you). During the rest of the year you write letters that congratulate yourself for an achievement or just for the effort you put in an assignment even if you failed, so you will understand that even the fact that you tried must be rewarded. You might even write something personal. Remember it is for your eyes only.

2 Inspirational board 
We all have things we want to achieve. Places we wish to go to, a goal we would like to reach. And we all have a role model or two. How about we put all that on a board that will have the purpose of inspiring us? That project will be about 6 to 10 lessons. That is because you have to share with the class the reasons you are inspired by those things. An essay must be written about the people you look up to (who says it can’t be a fictional character?), the place you wish to visit, the dreams you have. When you share with someone your goal it gives you more motivation. After your presentation you put the picture of what inspires you on a big piece of cardboard and little by little create your inspirational board.

3 Learning the language with Disney
All Disney songs  have a fair amount  of vocabulary so why instead of a script  we do something different and teach the students vocabulary and  even grammar from  their favourite childhood songs (they don’t necessarily have to be Disney. Animaniacs can teach them something as well).

4 I’m happy today because...

That’s a nice one … On a piece of cardboard write this title and write the reasons you are happy. Time to appreciate what we have and learn to be grateful about them.

5 All around the world
Take a globe and blindfold the student, then spin the globe and make the student touch it. Wherever the finger was laid, the student must find out about the culture of this place and tell the class (the ocean doesn’t count!)

6 The penguins of Mister Popper 
Have you seen this movie? There was a character there who was speaking only with words which started with ‘’P ‘’. In a scene, especially, she was reading out loud the newspaper and the paragraph happened to have all the words starting with “p”. How about we challenge the students to write a paragraph in which all words start with one letter. They can use a dictionary in order to create a paragraph on whatever subject.

7 A poster
Remember when we use songs to teach grammar and vocabulary? We can do that with funny pictures and motivational quotes and also have a spelling lesson. Then, after choosing the funny picture and the motivational quote, you make two posters that will be put in your room.

8 Negative and positive
How about learning the meaning of the worlds by themselves?  In this project the students must fold the paper in half and write the positives and the negatives of their character. NOBODY, NOT EVEN THE TEACHER MUST HELP THEM OUT. This paper is for their eyes only. Therefore, they must use the dictionary for every word. They need to fill the paper so they won’t make spelling mistakes and they’ll learn how to use a dictionary properly. Every person who might start this project will notice it is more difficult to appreciate the positives of their character rather that the negatives. The assignment isn’t over until both of the lists are filled with a fair amount of words.

9 Why not with comics
Why can’t we teach English with the stories of their favourite heroes? My love for books started after reading a comic based in a book and most of my vocabulary has been developed while reading Disney comics. That will make the lesson more interesting. 

10 Perhaps a challenge
The weirdest diseases, 10 fun facts, the weirdest addictions , the most weirdly constructed houses , tips for whatever subject ,every random idea that comes to your mind can  be for a kid  a challenge to surf  the net and find out. Every week one of the students must take the challenge to pick a random subject to inform his/her fellow students about. And to make matters more interesting, let’s make them choose from a jar the random task they’ll present to the class.

11 Story time
Team up or go solo and remake a classical fairytale. You can take the project even farther as a class and try to publish the stories. That is motivation enough for the students to put their everything into their essays. Also you can go to Storybird and make a story of your own. Those stories can’t be published but it is fun and you can challenge the students to have a creative presentation of their stories. In my class a student wrote a story about pirates and used coins of chocolate at his presentation, maybe you can help the students make costumes, or make- of cardboard – the main idea for their presentation.

12 All the world is a stage  

In the movie ’’Dead Poets’ Society ‘’ the students stand up on their desks and the teacher gives them the task to write a poem of their own. From my point of view that will boost the student self-confidence and the classmates will learn to cheer and clap for each other even if the performance isn’t suitable for an Oscar nomination. Also, the students can take ideas from other poems and the project can move their interest in poetry.

13 ‘’Not about me’’ week
How about the students give some of their spare time to make a video about a sensitive matter like food disorders or bullying?

14 OurTubes
The possibilities YouTube gives us are endless. Students can make a parody based on a story they learn in class or an adaptation.  That way reading a classic story like “The Three Musketeers” is even more interesting.

 15 Not so cool for a teacher
Maybe the students don’t realise what it truly means to be a teacher. How about they deliver a lesson from the book? They can prepare it with the assistance of a classmate or even a teacher. At the end of the lesson the classmates can write- anonymously - a short review about the lesson and how it’s been delivered. That way the students can learn to accept criticism and to be gentle with their fellow classmates and recognise the effort they put even if it backfired.

16 Payback Time
Time for the students to teach something. Give them for homework to write an essay (long or short) in which anonymously they’ll evaluate the way you teach . Then collect the papers in a box. It can be positive or it can be negative. Either way, you must take them seriously. Maybe the way the lesson is delivered doesn’t help. Plus the students might write their own ideas for a new project.

17 Carrier day
Let’s   rehearse a job interview. The day before, the students must gather some information about the career they want to follow (or maybe they don’t and just search from curiosity) The game starts when the student stands up and says what job he/she has . Then the class asks the cliche questions: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years”, “how many degrees do you have?” Or maybe ask from curiosity: “What do you do in this job?” “How much do you get paid?”.  The fun is that you can make things up, also the teacher can help a little bit with some vocabulary.
Maybe a student with humour picks the career of a … (the choice is theirs), they are allowed to do that and while we are on the subject the teacher can educate them by telling them about some jobs that they didn’t know  existed in  the past  or still exist .

18 An educational masked party
Put in a jar historical names. The kids will randomly pick  one .Then ,after knowing the name of the historical figure they will have to impersonate , they must look them up on the internet or in the library  and, after seeing some pictures ,they  must create a simple costume that will look like the character . Then in class they will say ‘’ who they are’’ and about ‘’their’’ history, always talking in first person.

19 The restaurant

The students in a group of three can pick recipes from around   the world but instead of cooking them they inform us about their story. Also it will be fun if they make a sample of what the food looks like with plasticine.
For example 

What if the dictionary they use is the “You speak Greek you just don’t know it’’ that will make them appreciate our national heritage.